The Availability of Modafinil and Methylphenidate Purchased from the Internet in the United Kingdom Without a Prescription

Subst Use Misuse. 2020;55(1):56-65. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2019.1654516. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Background: There are reports of prescription stimulants being purchased online for use as cognitive enhancers or "smart drugs." Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate availability of modafinil and methylphenidate from internet suppliers from the perspective of a typical United Kingdom (UK) based customer. Methods: Using European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) internet snapshot methodology, we undertook an English language internet snapshot survey in July-August 2018 to gather information on the availability and price of modafinil and methylphenidate from online retailers. Results: A total of 55 modafinil and 14 methylphenidate websites were identified from which the drug could be purchased without a prescription. Minimum purchase quantities ranged from 10 to 90 tablets for modafinil and 1-1,005 tablets for methylphenidate with no apparent upper limit to the number that could be purchased. The price per tablet varied from £0.38-5.31 for modafinil and £0.16-5.70 for methylphenidate. Free shipping was offered if more than a certain amount was spent on 46 (83.6%) modafinil and 7 (50.0%) methylphenidate websites and discounts were offered on 43 (78.2%) modafinil and 4 (28.6%) methylphenidate websites. Conclusions: Modafinil and methylphenidate are widely available to purchase via internet from the UK without a prescription. The pricing on websites encourages users to buy greater quantities to qualify for discounts and free shipping. The quantities available suggest these purchases may be used in greater amounts than would be legitimately prescribed, increasing the risk of misuse or diversion to other individuals.

Keywords: Stimulants; cognitive enhancers; methylphenidate; modafinil; smart drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate*
  • Modafinil*
  • Prescription Drug Diversion*
  • United Kingdom


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate
  • Modafinil